Plans to run electricity cables from a wind farm across one of the county’s premier nature reserves are being challenged for the environmental damage they would cause.
Vattenfall Wind Power Ltd has applied to the UK Planning Inspectorate for consent to build an extension to the Thanet Offshore Windfarm, a development that would require cables to take electricity from the offshore turbines to the National Grid.
The onshore part of the proposed cable route would cross Pegwell Bay, part of the Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve.
However, this is an internationally important site for wildlife. Aside from being a National Nature Reserve, it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Ramsar site and Special Protection Area (SPA).
Richard Kinzler is chairman of the Pegwell and District Association, an associate member of CPRE Kent, and is deeply critical of the Vattenfall scheme.
“Renewables companies and the government pledge to ‘go green’, but many of their projects are chipping away at our rare habitats across the UK.
“Vattenfall is such a company with its proposed cable route, which will cross Sandwich and Pegwell Bay, cutting through this site of national and international importance for wildlife, with every designation from SSSI to Ramsar.
“All too often the promises are purest greenwash, in this case used to conceal the destruction of coastal saltmarsh and ancient duneland pasture.
“Also consider the populations of many bird and bat species that are experiencing long-term declines, due in part to habitat loss, while it is estimated that many thousands of birds and bats die when they collide with these turbine blades.
“These projects slowly change the landscape by eroding habitat. We believe that alternative routes are the way forward.”
David Morrish, chairman of Thanet CPRE, shares the concerns.
“Despite Vattenfall’s alleged intention to avoid and minimise impacts on environment and ecosystems from its, operations, it is considered by Thanet CPRE that the impact of the proposals on the precious environment of Pegwell Bay area cannot be avoided or mitigated by the proposed routeing.
“Vattenfall should examine and carefully consider and assess alternative potential routes, along with potential compensation and restoration measures. Ideally, the route would avoid Pegwell Bay completely.”
Kent Wildlife Trust manages much of the area and has highlighted that construction and maintenance of the cable route could lead to the permanent loss, degradation and fragmentation of saltmarsh.
This irreplaceable habitat is an ever-decreasing resource in the South East. The saltmarsh at Pegwell is important for many species, including internationally protected breeding and wintering birds.
The trust believes the proposed cable route, which crosses the nature reserve, risks significant adverse impacts on both habitats and species of international importance.
Further, it believes that alternative routes avoiding the designated areas have not been adequately assessed.
Kent Wildlife Trust is not opposed to wind power and is keen to clarify that it is in favour of initiatives to reduce human reliance on fossil-fuel energy generation.
However, it says this must not be at the expense of other aspects of the natural environment.
A spokesman said: “As with many development issues, it is important to consider the location, in this case where and how cables are laid.
“There are potentially significant issues with this particular proposal in this particular location.”
The proposal has been classed as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project so will be determined in a different way from a ‘standard’ planning application.
The trust has consulted with the developer since early last year, working with other stakeholders including the National Trust and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in assessing and responding to preliminary proposals for the development.
There has been some collective success in ensuring the marine environment is protected, but Kent Wildlife Trust continues to oppose the application while keeping open lines of communication with the developer.
Vattenfall has stated publicly “[We] commit to the protection of nature and biodiversity” and “strive to avoid and minimise impacts on environment and ecosystems from [their] operations. Where impacts cannot be fully avoided or mitigated, [Vattenfall] consider potential compensation and restoration measures”.
A decision by the Planning Inspectorate on the application is expected in mid-2019.
- For more on this application, visit the Planning Inspectorate website here
Monday, December 10, 2018